Sexual Objectification (Part 2): The Harm » Sociological Images
Beyond the internal effects, sexually objectified women are dehumanized by others and seen as less competent and worthy of empathy by both men and women. Furthermore, exposure to images of sexually objectified women causes male viewers to be more tolerant of sexual harassment and rape myths. Add to this the countless hours that most girls/women spend primping and competing with one another to garner heterosexual male attention, and the erasure of middle-aged and elderly women who have little value in a society that places women’s primary value on their sexualized bodies.
Theorists have also contributed to understanding the harm of objectification culture by pointing out the difference between sexy and sexual. If one thinks of the subject/object dichotomy that dominates thinking in Western culture, subjects act and objects are acted upon. Subjects are sexual, while objects are sexy.
Pop culture sells women and girls a hurtful lie: that their value lies in how sexy they appear to others, and they learn at a very young age that their sexuality is for others. At the same time, being sexual, is stigmatized in women but encouraged in men. We learn that men want and women want-to-be-wanted. The yard stick for women’s value (sexiness) automatically puts them in a subordinate societal position, regardless of how well they measure up. Perfectly sexy women are perfectly subordinate.